Secretary DeVos Announces Grant Priority to Support Students in Economically Distressed Communities

Secretary DeVos Announces Grant Priority to Support Students in Economically Distressed Communities

November 27, 2019

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the Department will prioritize funding for grant applications that support students, teachers and parents in economically-distressed communities, known as Opportunity Zones.

The Opportunity Zones priority will allow the Department to focus on grantees that do their work in an Opportunity Zone, grantees that are located in an Opportunity Zone, and grantees that will increase the impact of each federal dollar by partnering with a Qualified Opportunity Fund.

"We want to ensure federal dollars have the maximum positive impact on the students and communities that need it most," said Secretary DeVos. "Through the Opportunity Zones priority, we can focus our discretionary resources on projects that will spur innovative approaches to education in areas of the country that are all too often left behind. I am grateful to the President for establishing Opportunity Zones and for his commitment to fighting for every student, no matter their ZIP Code, to have access to the education that works for them."

Last fiscal year, the Department encouraged projects in nine grant competitions to support students in Opportunity Zones. Of the 238 grants funded through these competitions, more than half indicated in their applications that their projects were aligned with the Opportunity Zones initiative. In the four 2019 competitions that either provided bonus points or established a separate competition track for applicants proposing to serve Opportunity Zones, the Department supported 50 grants, awarding over $30 million to support States, school districts, and other organizations working to improve educational outcomes in Opportunity Zones.

  • In the State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program, the Department awarded $6 million to the Indiana Department of Education to enhance an existing per-pupil facilities aid program for charter schools, with a focus on charter schools located in Opportunity Zones.
  • In the Charter School Developers program, the Department made three new awards totaling $1.1 million to support the opening and expansion of charter schools in Opportunity Zones.
  • Under the Perkins Innovation and Modernization program, the Department made nine awards totaling $1.5 million to support grants in Opportunity Zones to improve Career and Technical Education program effectiveness and alignment.
  • In the School Climate Transformation Grant Program, the Department made 37 awards totaling $23 million to school districts overlapping with Opportunity Zones to support schools implementing a multi-tiered system of support for improving school climate.

Governors have selected over 8,700 Opportunity Zones nationwide with diverse characteristics. Opportunity Zones are economically distressed, with substantially higher rates of unemployment, lower rates of educational attainment, lower median household income, and higher poverty rates, on average, than the rest of the nation. While ensuring its programs support high-quality projects that serve diverse urban and rural communities, the Department can use this priority amplify its work to efficiently target funds to these economically distressed areas.